Monsters & Mullets: Fire and Ice (1983)
Thursday, December 16, 2010
Monsters & Mullets is Pornokitsch's ongoing project to review each and every 80s fantasy film we can get our grubby little mitts on, and rate them according to various incredibly empirical metrics including, of course, the number of monsters and mullets each movie features.
Fire and Ice, the 1983 animated high-fantasy collaboration between Ralph Bakshi and Frank Frazetta, has a lot going for it. Like, a lot. The screenplay is by Gerry Conway and Roy Thomas, who'd worked on Conan for Marvel. The character design comes courtesey of Frazetta, the love-him or leave-him but inescapable fantasy illustrator, and the animation is typical batshit crazy Bakshi rotoscoping (cool, if you like batshit-crazy Bakshi rotoscoping). Why, even the backgrounds have a surprising genealogy - they're by James Gurney and Thomas Kinkade himself, the Painter of Light (tm).
What a pedigree! But, oh lordy, how terrible is the end result?
The plot gets rolling when the baddies decide to kidnap the daughter of the warm lowland area's monarch. Enter the pneumatic Teegra, lolling around in her tissue-paper and dental-floss "microkini." After a healthy dose of screaming, flailing, and gratuitious flesh, Teegra's nabbed by the sub-human soldiers of the ice villains. Teegra manages to distract her captors with her enormous boobs and escape long enough to meet Larn, our "hero," a muscle-bound blond out to revenge the death of his village at the hands of the sub-humans. Teegra is immediately recaptured, of course. Larn goes streaming afer her, fortunately pausing long enough to pick up an acutally useful warrior, the Batman-esque barbarian Darkwolf.
Darkwolf, rather perplexingly, wears a hat made out of a panther's head. The better to confuse his enemies, I suppose.
Why Darkwolf helps Larn out is never made clear, but he does. And thank goodness for it. Larn tootles around in the foreground getting his ass kicked while, in the background, Darkwolf saves the day again and again. Ultimately, Larn and some other warriors storm the Evil Glacier of Evil on the backs of pteronadons - oh, pardon me, flame hawks. Then Larn and the grey-skinned baddie strip down to fight each other with their bare... swords. There's some weird twist-ish subplot about the evil mother towards the film's end, but it fizzles out without ever becoming interesting. The volcanoes go off, immoliating both the Evil Glacier of Evil and the Warm Lowlying Lands of Goodness, which, oopsies? Larn and Teegra kiss, and Darkwolf buggers off into the sunset without saying a word. The end.
I'm not a fan of the Bakshi-favored animation technique rotoscoping, but I absolutely recognize it as sophisticated and even, in its way, beautiful. And Fire and Ice's backgrounds, particulary, are amazing. But, incredibly slight plot aside, I have two really serious issues with the movie. First of all is the stomach-churning fashion in which women are protrayed. Teegra exists only to be sexually menaced by an endless line of baddies - primarily the sub-humans, but also in a bizarre aside with an evil lesbian-y witch. Worse, however, are the sub-humans themselves.
Now these sub-humans are probably the movie's most egregious problem: they're lumpen, dark-skinned, grunting humanoids who understand but can't speak English and exist primarily to threaten women sexually and kill men. There's something deeply disturbing and icky about how Bakshi and Frazetta linger on shots of the gross, dark sub-human males pawing at the pale, nearly naked Teegra - these scenes are at once highly sexualized and understood as wrong. And, unfortunately, they make up about half the movie: just scene upon scene of Teegra bouncing, Teegra screaming and flailing, Teegra falling, Teegra swimming, Teegra fainting, and Teegra running all the while pursued by endless, faceless hoards of lascivious, drooling, grinning, grunting idiots. It's gross and it's seriously offensive.
Fire and Ice is, of course, being remade as a live-action film by Robert Rodriguez.
Appalling Racial Subtext-o-Meter: Off the bloody scale.
Hookers, Victims and Doormats: Two victims in teeny-weeny bikinis. Two evil mothers, one of whom is also an evil lesbian. EVIL.
Monster Count: high! Pteradons - erm, flame hawks, "sub-humans," an enormous iguana and a big ol' lake squid.
Mullet Count: One really special one - a mullet with a braided rat-tail!
Comprehensive Monsters and Mullets Awesomeness Spectrum Placement: Low, hovering somewhere down around Krull.
N.B. So far I've only given bad reviews, but stay tuned for a super-duper Legitimately Awesome Monsters & Mullets Movie entry! (It might even go live tomorrow!)